How can I find the right business plan consultant? This question comes up so often that I can’t resist answering it here, on this blog, again. Sure, consultants can help if you recognize the need and have the budget, but understand what a consultant can do for you, and what really works. Here’s a question I saw this morning:
Can you recommend a consultant? We are [details about the business not relevant]. We need to come up with a cohesive strategy and business plan for the next stage of growth.
I’m not recommending a specific person but I do recommend, strongly and emphatically, that you look not for somebody to come up with your strategy and plan, but rather somebody to help you come up with it. You want somebody to work with you, ask you questions, generate or even lead discussion, take notes, summarize in bullet points, review the process to help you move from discussions to bullet points and maybe even from there to polished text.
What worries me in your question is that the idea of somebody else from outside your company developing your strategy and plan is a dangerous one. Not that it isn’t a common idea, it happens all the time. But, unfortunately, it supports the myth that a plan exists all by itself, without the planning process around it, and that there is some value in having a plan.
I speak from experience, having supported a family as a business planning consultant for more than 20 years, but also from a relatively neutral position, since I no longer do consulting. One of the things I learned the hard way, and — thank goodness — early on, was that whatever planning gets done has to be your planning, your plan, your ideas, or it’s not going to work. Think of it as something like diet and exercise, and the right consultant takes on a role somewhat like that of a personal trainer. Paying somebody to develop your strategy and plan is a lot like paying somebody to diet and exercise for you. It just doesn’t work.
And, just to make sure I’m not confusing the issue, I’m not saying don’t work with a consultant. If you have the need and the resources, a consultant can be very helpful. Just make sure you look for one who will help you, and not one who will do it for you.